WARNINGS: Spoilers for 01.12 Dog Fight
Disclaimer: THIS WOULD SO BE CANON IF I WAS IN CHARGE. *weeps for lost opportunities*
Credit to GallowsHumor for the beta and the flailing. Anything that is still wrong is totally my fault because I can't help but tweak before posting. And to Lu for genre picking, which is the second bane of my existence after last lines.
Written for a prompt by smartalli on suits_meme on LJ (which I will put at the end of the story to keep from spoiling all y'all).
"Hey, Donna, is Harvey in?"
"Nope," she replied without even pausing in her work.
"Oh," Mike said, stalled for a moment because he had actually intended it as more of a warning that he was going in than an honest question. But perhaps Donna knew that and didn't want him to become presumptuous when it came to his access to the Great and Powerful Oz, known here in his homeland of Manhattan as Harvey Specter. The only problem with this theory was that a glance at Harvey's office showed that his desk had been cleared, his laptop was gone, and—most telling—his record player had been covered.
All of which usually meant that Harvey was not only out of the office, but he wasn't planning on returning today.
Mike frowned and checked his watch, wondering if it was later than he thought, but the display there agreed with the angle of sunlight through the windows and said it was only four o'clock. It also confirmed that it was in fact Thursday, not Friday when Harvey was known to knock off this early on occasion.
"Is there something else I can help you with?" Donna said.
"Okay then, thanks for stopping by!" She gave him a bright grin, then went back to her work, reverting to completely ignoring his presence.
Mike's mouth worked a few more times, his brow furrowing, but he realized that it was pointless to even try to get information out of Donna right now and returned to his desk. He'd just have to make his best guess on the contract and hope that it was the right one.
Or draw up two copies with the alternative wording so that whichever one Harvey wanted would already be printed up and ready to go.
Resigning himself to an extra hour of work before he got to leave tonight, Mike sighed and settled back into his chair.
On Monday, Mike didn't even get close enough to ask, seeing Harvey's office in that same state of end-of-day tidiness. He stopped in the middle of the hall, frowned, and stared until Donna said, "Think at your desk, Rookie. You're blocking traffic and I don't want to have to call custodial services to clean up a blood stain if you pop something."
Mike blinked and looked at her. She was arching an eyebrow and when she had his attention she jerked her head in a "move along" gesture.
Mike turned on his heel and retreated, checking his watch after he was out of sight.
Last Thursday might have been a fluke. Harvey was a Senior Partner, after all, and if he could come it at nine or later without repercussions, surely he could leave before five every once in a while.
Even two times wasn't exactly conclusive evidence, however close together they might be. If it happened again, though...
Obviously, further observation was required.
Mike kept his head down as Harvey walked past his desk, but his eyes rose to follow the progress of his boss. He twitched his hand and scooted the pointer on his computer screen down to the menu bar, verifying it was, indeed, three-thirty on a Wednesday.
It was the sixth consecutive early departure in the last three weeks and if that wasn't reason enough to wonder, the regular pattern to it was. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Harvey left the office at three-thirty and did not return until the next morning. No one seemed to know where he was going—except for maybe Jessica who had said something last week that indicated to Mike it was likely she was at least aware of what was going on. Sadly, she hadn't said anything that would clue Mike into what the secret was, but he hardly expected that kind of sloppiness from her.
Louis was completely in the dark, though, because when Mike had tried fishing for information, he'd gotten nothing but the standard annoyance that Harvey was a Senior Partner and one who abused the perks of said promotion. That Louis was mostly upset because he couldn't do the same rang pretty clear. An extra three hours' worth of work also convinced Mike that he should not bring it—or anything like it—up in Louis' hearing again.
Mike wasn't on good enough terms or in close enough proximity to surreptitiously poll any of the other partners, senior or junior, but he was witness to more than one of them being politely informed by Donna that Harvey was unavailable, and that she could pass on a message when he returned. Apparently Harvey's colleagues didn't know him well enough to recognize the meaning of the state of his office.
All of which made Mike even more curious as to where Harvey was disappearing to, thus his plan which he was now prepared to execute.
He made his motions as normal as possible, giving no hint that he was actually shuffling the files in preparation to put them away, but was stopped before he could slip them into his desk by Donna's hand appearing suddenly in his line of sight. "Are those done? Good. They're twenty minutes late, Rookie." She wiggled her fingers in a non-verbal "give them here" order.
Mike looked up and said, "I... what? No. I'm just... Um." He tapped the stack of papers again, then laid them flat.
She arched an eyebrow.
"I'm almost done, I swear," he assured her. "I just have to check one last thing in the bylaws and then—"
"Ten minutes or you won't be going to the Sandusky meeting tomorrow," she said and left.
Mike watched her go, frowning at her back.
It was only after he'd turned forward again and looked up at the exit that he realized that she'd distracted him. Since it was Donna, he couldn't tell if that was intentional or not.
But either way it was effective. Now the only way he'd catch Harvey was to race down the stairs at a breakneck pace, and even then it was almost certain he'd miss the older man's departure.
Well, at least now that he was sure of the schedule he could plan ahead. He just needed to make an excuse and leave before Harvey tomorrow.
Yeah, this plan could still work.
Mike spent a miserable half hour Thursday afternoon standing under the awning of a store across the street. He would have been closer, but the cold and the rain had driven most people inside and it would have been too conspicuous.
The worst part was that Harvey didn't even show—though he did text Mike at four and ask where the hell he was and, more importantly, where the hell was the patent confirmation for Sandusky?
With a sigh Mike texted back that he had it in his hands and that he'd be there in five minutes, then he braced himself and ducked out into the rain, hurrying across the street.
Mike was still on probation for his unauthorized field trip on Thursday when Monday rolled around—and Gregory was so going to pay for ratting him out—and couldn't attempt a second stakeout for all the extra work Harvey had piled on him as punishment.
He could, though, try something else.
But first he checked in with Rachel because she scared him less than Donna and there was no reason to risk the wrath of the latter if the former could give him the information.
Unfortunately, she couldn't.
"Mike, you work for him directly. If you don't know where he is, why would I?"
Mike opened his mouth, but had to close it when no reasonable answer immediately burst forth. His brow drew down and she looked up.
"Why don't you ask Donna?"
"Because she's busy and—"
"And you value the presence and utility of all your limbs and senses? Well that puts you ahead of most of the other associates in terms of intelligence and self preservation instincts."
She laughed at the look on his face and then looked back down at the hefty tome opened in front of her. "Look, I'm sure that if you needed to know where he was going, he'd tell you. Since he hasn't, you should probably just go back to work and stop prying into what is obviously his personal business."
Mike snorted. "I'm not prying—"
She regarded him with a look and he gave up.
"Fine. Whatever. Excuse me for wanting to actually get my boss' input on the work I do for him. You're right. I'll just go muddle through on my own."
Rachel rolled her eyes as Mike left, but it was with amusement.
At least one of them thought this was funny.
What Mike did next he would forever blame on Donna's own influence and, therefore, maintain that she totally deserved it.
He would also never attempt it again because even though it was—somewhat—successful, holy shit was it a desperate, stupid act that, in any rational being, would have served as a wake up call to just how far into insanity this desire to know Harvey's secret was taking him.
He still couldn't entirely believe it had worked, and the residual adrenaline high of risking death—or worse—was enough to have him skipping his usual Red Bull doses for the remainder of the day lest his heart spontaneously explode from overexertion.
He also expected the other physical side effects—including but not limited to dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, sweating, abdominal pain, vomiting, tremors, anxiety, heartburn, muscle spasms, abnormal dreams, and an asshole clenched so tightly not even Ex Lax could help him—to subside within the week. Maybe two.
But it was worth it because he knew now, from his peek at Donna's computer, that whatever Harvey was doing was not work related. Or at least, not written on his schedule. There were only empty holes from three-thirty to five-thirty on the three days in question and then three hour blocks open on his Saturday mornings between varying times that spanned eight am and two pm for the next two and a half months.
Okay, so not entirely successful, as previously mentioned, but still it was progress. He was now sure that 1. he wasn't just imagining things, and 2. it wasn't for Pearson Hardman.
That eliminated a lot of possibilities.
It also left a lot open, but Mike was feeling pretty badass right now for his daring maneuver this afternoon and that translated into optimism in regards to his investigation's progress.
He happily settled into work for the rest of the day, feeling like he'd accomplished a great deal and willing to let that be enough.
His brilliant—if he did say so himself—spotting of a dangerous loophole in a contract on Tuesday was enough to have Harvey rescind his probation and Mike accepted the unspoken thanks with a nod—then returned to his desk to plot his next move.
Wednesday they had a meeting scheduled that Harvey wouldn't be able to miss, so Mike knew that Thursday was his next chance and since there was nothing at all in this building that could help him out, he had gone back to his idea of tailing Harvey.
He just needed to plan more carefully, that was all, but he had managed to lure Donna from her desk and get on to her computer so, yeah, he was pretty sure he could handle this.
His confidence was both bolstered and shaken when Wednesday afternoon came and Harvey informed Mike that he'd be handling the meeting with the client alone, that Harvey was pretty sure he could handle this without screwing up too badly, and that he expected a full report afterward on his desk.
It had to be serious—very serious—for Harvey to miss a meeting like this and, no, Mike didn't think Harvey actually trusted him that much. Clearly he had to choose between the lesser of two evils and, in this case, that happened to be letting Mike potentially screw up both of their careers.
Not for the first time, Mike worried about what exactly Harvey was hiding.
This had to end today. Really, it did.
Because it was starting to affect his work and Harvey was bound to notice soon and Mike really didn't look forward to explaining how he'd been, well, stalking his boss for the last month. He didn't need another lecture on trust or loyalty or that disappointed look in Harvey's eyes, he really didn't.
He just needed to see for himself that Harvey wasn't... Shit, the possibilities that had been running through his brain for the last twenty-four hours alone had been enough to keep Mike from sleeping.
Of course it could be something completely innocuous like— Actually, Mike couldn't think of any innocuous reasons. Mostly he was thinking of meetings with shady figures who may or may not have Mob affiliations, or a serious health issue that required regular treatments and examinations, or other equally bad things.
Donna wasn't showing anything that concerned him and that made Mike feel marginally better—more so than Harvey not showing signs of stress—because even Mike had been able to see the effects on her during and after the whole Cameron Dennis/Clifford Danner fiasco and she was better than Harvey at hiding how she felt.
But that didn't mean there wasn't something bad going on, just that Donna was still optimistic and/or determined to not let it win.
Because of these ever more dire thoughts, Mike's work that Thursday morning was significantly less productive than it could have been. How he didn't get caught or called out on it, he'd never know.
Well, Harvey had actually called him on it at lunch, but Mike just said that dinner last night had been a bad choice and Harvey had warned him not to puke on anyone important and left it at that.
News of his possible food poisoning must have reached Donna's desk—like there was any chance it wouldn't—by three, because when she saw him putting some files in his bag at three-fifteen she just told him to try drinking some apple cider vinegar and hot lemon water—separately, not together, Mike, and don't knock it until you've tried it—and feel better tomorrow.
Mike felt a little stupid for not even realizing he could use this fake illness to his advantage, a sign of just how off this whole thing was making him, and made the appropriate noises about taking her advice and apologizing and vowing not to eat from there again.
Louis sidelined him before he could escape and it took Mike gagging a few times before Louis was alarmed enough to go find another of his "ponies" to do the work he had. Because of this delay, Harvey actually ended up in the same elevator as he did and Mike thought for sure he was sunk.
But Harvey just gave him a quick once over, said, "Donna told me you were going home. Save your culinary adventures for the weekend next time, will you?" and went back to his phone.
Mike breathed a sigh of relief under the guise of suppressing his gag reflex and said nothing but a short agreement.
He could still make this work, he thought. He just had to go to his bike, fiddle with the lock until Harvey was in the car, then hurry and catch a cab to follow him. This time of day that shouldn't be too hard.
Except Mike's detour to the bike rack was interrupted by Harvey's, "Oh no. I'm not letting you ride home on that thing and end up passing out halfway there. You'll get yourself killed and I'll have to find a new associate. Nuh uh." A hand on his arm overrode Mike's spluttered protests and all too soon Mike found himself seated in the back of Ray's luxury sedan.
"Afternoon, Mr. Ross," Ray said as Harvey climbed in on the other side. "Sorry to hear you're not feeling well."
"Thanks," Mike mumbled and slumped into the corner.
He really wasn't sure he could wait until Monday to have this mystery solved so he had the drive home to figure out a plan.
For a few brief minutes on the drive he'd thought that maybe he wouldn't need a plan at all. If Ray was taking Harvey to his appointment, then it would be a simple matter of keeping his eyes open.
Of course, things couldn't be that simple, and when Mike realized they were going to his place first, he felt like an idiot for even considering the possibility. As careful as Harvey had been so far, he wasn't about to make a stupid mistake like taking Mike to the very place he was being so careful about hiding from everyone at work.
Mike climbed out of the car with a repressed sigh and thanked Ray for the ride.
"Get some sleep, kid," Harvey ordered, critical eye measuring him up. "You look like shit."
"Thanks," Mike said. "But you should tone down the caring or someone might suspect you're not as heartless as you profess to be."
Harvey smirked and said, "Goodbye, Mike," and reached over to pull the door shut.
Mike turned and trudged toward the door of his building, waiting until the sedan was a solid half block away before turning around and running back, arm in the air and fingers of his other hand between his lips for a short, sharp whistle. "Taxi!"
It was a close thing and Mike cursed all the movies of his youth that had lied to him about how easy it was to tail someone in a cab.
And how cheap. Mike was going to be eating ramen for a week or two to be able to cover the cost of not only taking a cab halfway across town and back, but sitting outside of Harvey's apartment for fifteen minutes while the man went up, changed into jeans and a white silk windbreaker—wardrobe items Mike would have attested to under oath that Harvey didn't own—and returned with two huge duffel bags slung over his shoulders.
"What the hell...?" Mike muttered as he watched Harvey flag down another cab and load his bags into the trunk.
"Are we following this one too?" his cabbie asked.
Mike glanced at him for only a second, hunched down to just be able to peer over the back of the seat as he was, and said, "Yeah. Same as before."
"Okay," the man said, the 'it's your very generous tip' heavily implied.
Mike swallowed his snort and kept his eyes glued to the back of Harvey's cab.
Your thoughts would be much appreciated if you've got a mo'. Part two will be up in a jiffy.